When it Comes to Customer Service, the Customer is Not Always Right

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Since Harry Gordon Selfridge, department store founder, came up with the phrase “the customer is always right,” many companies have used it as a cornerstone for their businesses. Truthfully, though, basing your customer service activities around this concept is bad for business.

Now there’s nothing wrong with going out of your way to make their customers happy. Creating a good customer experience has become a differentiator that can make or break your business, in particular when it comes to online and mobile activities.

The danger is not recognizing the point when you’ve gone too far. Customer care is a vital part of any business and creating a great customer experience should be a high priority. However, that shouldn’t equate to the customer always being right.

Wrong for Your Business

First off, there are some people who are just wrong for your business. They will never be satisfied with any experience you provide for them and the customer service you provide will simply become a venue for them to complain.

classic example of this is a woman who flew Southwest airlines, yet complained to the company every time she did. Her complaints were not about a specific incident that went wrong or something that made sense to fix. Instead, her comments ran the gamut, including annoyance about the way the planes were boarded, a dislike of the fact that they didn’t have a first class section, complaints about the uniforms employees wore, and more.

At long last, her history and comments were passed up to the company’s CEO, Herb Kelleher. After one look, he immediately replied, “Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.”

Read: Customer Experience Lessons from Buddy the Elf

The moral of this story: if a person is a bad fit for your company, don’t make your contact center agents do contortions to attempt to make them love you. It’s all right (and even good) to recognize that not everyone is part of your target audience. Focus on pleasing the people who will become your lifelong advocates. That’s where the real money and long-term loyalty will come from.

Wrong for Your Employees

“The customer is always right” sets a bad example for your contact center employees. Why? Because it implies that if employees disagree at all with something the customer says (or can’t fix an issue), the employees are now the ones at fault.

Sometimes the customer is in the wrong. They abused a product then complained when it broke. They made a change in their environment that affected the way your service worked. They ignored your warnings and then were surprised when something negative happened. It happens all the time.

Contact center agents can listen sympathetically to their issues. Sometimes they can even help solve the issue despite the fact that it had nothing to do with your or your product or service. But that doesn’t make the customer right.

Read: Ten Stunning Customer Experience Facts

Even more frequently, there may be a multitude of problems that came together to cause a larger isue to occur, and the blame might lie with both the company and the customer. As ArCompany CEO and writer Hessie Jones so elegantly states:

“…The reality is things will happen. Directions change in the process; strategies are diverted; decisions get delayed. And yes, many times, miscommunication can lead the agency to make unfortunate errors. But 100% of the time the blame cannot lie solely on the shoulders of the vendor.”

This is where having the right contact center employees with the right training comes in. If they have been trained properly, employees will know when to agree that the company should and can fix or take responsibility for an issue, and when to explain to a customer that an issue is out of their hands. To be successful, you need to provide your employees with the trust and tools to make their own decisions about the best action to take.

Read: Grow Customer Satisfaction by Practicing Respect

In the words of AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers:

“If you want to keep your employees happy and effective, back them up. Prove to them that you respect their judgment and opinions, and when faced with siding with your employee or an unreasonable customer, always choose your employee.”

Making Customer Service Right

Now don’t come away from this piece thinking that I’m implying that companies should ignore customer complaints. Customer service is not a thing of the past. Moreover, just because not all problems are solvable and they don’t all lie solely on the shoulders of your business, doesn’t mean that no issue can or should be fixed.

On the contrary, there are many ways to work collaboratively with your customers to improve relationships and customer service in general. Technology, customer habits, and customer expectations are changing quickly. The parallel phenomena of social channels, smart devices, mobile connectivity, and apps have brought new depth and complexity to the customer relationship.

Read: Ten Quotes to Inspire You to Amp Up Customer Experience

They have also brought about the ability to meet the customer in new places, at new times. Digital channels, peer communities, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more), third-party forums, email, online forms, mobile apps, and SMS are all great places to connect with your customers.

Giving your employees access to the right tools to effectively reach customers in the channels they prefer is key to creating a successful customer experience. In fact, often by listening to your customers through the right channels, you can stem problems before they grow into full-blown issues.

Some Closing Thoughts on Effective Customer Service

Ready to dive into a more effective way to provide good customer care? Here are a few suggestions:

1)   Provide your contact center employees with the right training to enable them to make the right decisions about how to handle customer situations.

2)   Provide your contact center employees with the right tools to enable them to communicate with your customers in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Because while your customers aren’t always right, they aren’t always wrong either. Your challenge is to open up the discussion with them and together, make the right decisions for both them and your business.

Are you ready to discover how Glance visual engagement solutions can improve customer engagement and increase sales for your business?

Sign up for your personalized Glance demo today!



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